Choosing The Right College Admissions Plan For Your Student

When your teenager reaches their senior year, there is a mix of excitement and fear. You’re incredibly proud of them for getting through their most difficult academic years so far. You’re excited for whatever bright future awaits them after graduation. But, there’s also fear about securing that future. When senior year comes around, it’s time for your teen to start applying for college admissions. In this blog, you’ll learn what every family should know about choosing the right college admissions plan for your student. 

6 College Admissions Plans To Choose From

Before we talk about choosing the right college admissions plan for your student, let’s review the options available to them. There are 6 college admissions plans to choose from:

  • Early Decision
  • Early Decision 2
  • Early Action
  • Restricted Early Action
  • Regular Decision
  • Rolling Admissions

Early Decision

Ivy Leagues and other highly selective schools offer early decision. The date to apply early decision to college comes up fast during senior year with a hard deadline of November 1. 

To apply early decision, students must:

  • Apply to only one school
  • Sign a binding contract confirming they will attend the school if accepted

Although early decision isn’t for every student, there are some benefits with this admission plan:

  • There is a smaller applicant pool, so your teenager will be competing with fewer students.
  • Your student will hear back sooner. They will know well before the winter holidays whether or not they were admitted. 
  • Your teenager will be done early with college applications. If they’re accepted, your student won’t have to worry about filling out other college applications.

However, the early decision door might be a bit scary for some students to knock on. Your student should know the following:

  • The competition is steep. Students who apply early decision are super highly-qualified, so your teen will be competing against the best.
  • They’ll need to have all their ducks in a row. All of their application materials including test scores should be submitted by October 15th.
  • They cannot change their mind. Once they apply early decision, they are committed to attending the school if accepted.

Early Decision 2

The next pathway your teen can choose to take is early decision 2, with its January 1 deadline. This option is available for universities that are close but not quite as selective as the Ivy Leagues. 

This path to admissions is largely similar to the first early decision window. It has: 

  • A binding agreement to attend if accepted
  • A highly competitive applicant pool
  • The chance to hear back early about admissions decisions. 

But the main difference is that when applying early decision 2, students will have more time to prepare their application materials.

Early Action

In addition to early decisions, there is early action. It has the same November 1st deadline as early decision, but without the binding contract.

That means, your student can apply early to multiple schools and they don’t need to make a commitment to attend any of them right away. 

Your student can take their time and weigh the pros and cons of attending wherever they’re accepted. This includes financial considerations too, like:

  • Competitive tuition pricing
  • Merit scholarship opportunities

Restricted Early Action

Restricted early action plans are like a combination of early decision and early action: It’s like early decision since you can only apply to one school early, but it’s similar to early action because the application is not binding.

If your student takes this plan to admissions, they can:

  • Only apply to 1 school early action
  • Apply to other schools through regular decision

The benefits of restricted early action are: 

  • Your student will be communicating their specific interest in a particular school, showing the admissions committee they are serious.
  • They will hear back early about admissions decisions, but they will not have to decide right away on accepting the offer.

So when applying restricted early action, your student can still choose to attend another school that they apply to later on in the application season through regular decision or rolling admissions.

Regular Decision

The regular decision plan has less of a time crunch for students. The deadline comes up in January, during the second semester of senior year. 

Students can apply for the regular decision plan at as many schools as they’d like. And they are not obligated to go to any of the schools they are accepted to.

A great benefit of applying using the regular decision plan is that students’ first semester of grades are released. So if a student has a weaker transcript or overall application, they can send in their first semester transcripts to improve their chances of admission.

Rolling Admissions

The last type of admissions plan is rolling admissions. This approach lets students apply for college, even after the typical deadlines have passed. 

Many larger universities offer rolling admissions and might even still have scholarships available for applicants.

Choosing The Right College Admissions Plan For Your Student

Now, with an overview of each pathway to college admissions, you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed with all of the options. 

Which path will be best for your student’s specific goals and needs? How can you make sure your student thrives during their last year of high school, while preparing well enough for their next big step to college?

Here are a few ways to make sure you’re choosing a strategic and stress-relieving college admissions plan.

Plan Ahead

Don’t wait until senior year rolls around to choose your plan for college admissions. This can have your student feeling unsure, pressuring them to get their materials together at the very last minute. Avoid that kind of pressure by planning ahead.

At Bright Futures, we prepare our students to enter their senior year with a plan already in place. So start planning in junior year of high school!

Create a Spreadsheet

If your student is applying early action, restricted early action, or regular decision, they can apply to multiple schools. We recommend applying to about 6 to 8 schools– budget permitting. 

With so many applications to keep track of, it can be easy to miss a deadline if you’re not careful. 

Plus, the best strategy for college admissions is to have your student submit early. That means their essays, transcripts, test scores, and all other application materials should be in before the deadline. 

Creating a spreadsheet with each school’s application deadline, and the materials to submit will help you avoid stressful mishaps.

Have a Back-Up Plan

Planning early will help your student relieve stress in the college application process and so will having a back-up plan.

What if your student didn’t get admitted to their early decision school? Without a back-up plan, they might feel hopeless from the rejection and be less motivated to apply elsewhere.

To keep your student’s morale and motivation high, have a back-up plan to apply early decision 2 to their second-choice school. 

Consider the Financial Side

If your student… 

  • Has a competitive standardized test score and grades
  • Knows exactly where they want to go
  • Wants to commit to their dream school early

… then, early decision might be a really great option for them. 

But, before your student settles on early decision, talk with them about finances.

Would still accept an offer from their first-choice school if their second-choice school offered them an amazing scholarship, or even a full-ride?

If finances are important to your family, early action might be a more strategic plan. You’ll apply early enough to be eligible for scholarships, and this will show you mean business, but you still have the flexibility to choose which school fits your budget the best.

Weigh The Timing

Finally, choosing a strategic and stress-relieving college admissions plan also means weighing the timing.

Early decision, early action, and restricted early action allow you to finish your applications way early in senior year. You’ll hear back early too! This can take a lot of pressure and uncertainty off, and help your student enjoy their final semester of high school.

On the other hand, if your student is worried about the strength of their application, extra time might help them. Taking the regular decision route will allow them to submit their first semester transcripts and retake their tests.

Finally, the world is in a bit of a flux right now. In times of uncertainty, unexpected events might interfere with our intended timeline. If your student isn’t in the position to apply for college right away, consider rolling admissions or a gap year!

Start Building Your College Admissions Plan

If your student is in their junior year of high school, it’s time for them to start planning their path to college admissions. 

But, choosing a strategic and stress-relieving college admissions plan can seem daunting at a time like this, when all of us are already juggling so much.

The College Counselors at Bright Futures Consulting are here to take the weight off your shoulders. We are experts at helping students find the path to their brightest futures, even in times of uncertainty. 

To figure out which plan for college admissions is right for your student, schedule a consultation with us today.

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